Sunday, September 27, 2009

One Writer’s Process: David Chotjewitz

A writer and director living in Hamburg, Germany, David Chotjewitz is the author of the award-winning YA novel Daniel Half Human, the story about a German boy who discovers in the spring of 1933 that his mother is Jewish, which means that he’s half-Jewish and, according to the Aryan definition, half human.

It’s a book that Hazel Rochman, the reviewer for Booklist, hailed as “ important title for the Holocaust curriculum, especially given the friendship drama that keeps raising ethical questions to the very last page.”

Kirkus wrote about Daniel Half Human: “There are many Holocaust books for children, but this one stands out in its careful dissection of one family's experience before the war, and in its nuanced approach to the complexity of emotions and relationships under stress.”

And the reviewer for School Library Journal called it “An outstanding addition to the large body of World War II/Holocaust fiction.”

Chotjewitz has published several other novels, including Das Abenteuer des Denkens (The Adventures of Thinking) about Albert Einstein, which have been published in Germany, as well as in other countries.

“Presently I'm working a lot with my group Theater: playstation," he says. “I've produced music-theater projects since 2002, and in these projects I work together with choreographers, musicians, young actors, singers, dancers and rappers. Some of the projects have been staged in abandoned houses, empty apartments, discotheques, and, most recently, a playground.”

Crazy Diamond, his latest novel, which received a CCBC Choice Award, evolved out of his work in the theater and his development of the script in cooperation with the performers. The story depicts the life of Mira , a runaway teen, and the harsh contemporary music scene in Hamburg.

Chotjewitz was kind enough recently to share his thoughts on writing with Wordswimmer.

Wordswimmer: If writing is like do you get into the water each day?

Chotjewitz: Actually, I don't get into the water each day. Often, I just stand there looking at the lake or whatever it is. On other days I have other things to do because I also work as a director in the theater.

I'm probably a shore-side personality. Writing is something I like to stay distant from. I prefer reading and admiring the wonderful things that others have written.

Wordswimmer: What keeps you afloat... for short work? For longer work?

Chotjewitz: I try to find my very personal interest. And then, I need the money...

Wordswimmer: How do you keep swimming through dry spells?

Chotjewitz: I have only a few convictions about writing. One of them is not to write if it doesn't come by itself. So I would rather do a million things than write if it's not coming...

Wordswimmer: How do you overcome obstacles, problems, when swimming alone?

Chotjewitz: Sometimes it’s nice to be alone. If not, you just have to stand the pain. But that's what every work is about.

Wordswimmer: What's the part of swimming that you love the most?

Chotjewitz: Honestly, I prefer real swimming, but only in natural water --lakes and the sea-- not in the public swimming pool.

I also like Jung’s image– that the sea is the unconscious.

For more information about Chotjewitz and his work, visit:

And if you’d like to read an excerpt of Daniel Half Human, check out:

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